anna brones

writer + artist

Posts Tagged ‘Writing

2022 Words for Creating and Being: April

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New month, new prompts in the 2022 Words for Creating and Being series.

These are words for contemplation, words for action, words for creativity. Use them as you see fit. Use them as a starting point, use them as a mantra. Use them to spark something. Use them as a question, use them as an intention.

//

1. laugh
2. allow
3. involve
4. appreciate
5. proceed
6. lean
7. rebuild
8. awaken
9. center
10. release
11. puddle
12. commit
13. plan
14. resume
15. discover
16. refine
17. journey
18. grow
19. find
20. stumble
21. alter
22. strengthen
23. articulate
24. perceive
25. control
26. arrange
27. clarify
28. attention
29. stir
30. change

What happens when we sit with a word? When we unpack it? When we investigate every single letter? When we consider what’s behind the definition? That’s what these words are for. They are intended to create space for contemplation, they are an ask for you to invest time in the creative process in all of its forms.

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

As always, these monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon.

Written by Anna Brones

April 1, 2022 at 06:54

2022 Words for Creating and Being: March

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Untitled_Artwork 5

New month, new prompts in the 2022 Words for Creating and Being series.

Words for contemplation, words for action, words for creativity.

I know that things are heavy right now. Which is even more reason for us to take time to be present, to think, to connect, to create.

1. pause
2. feel
3. immerse
4. focus
5. grace
6. respond
7. decide
8. resistance
9. see
10. root
11. open
12. revive
13. forge
14. voice
15. support
16. plunge
17. contemplate
18. there
19. amend
20. emerge
21. choose
22. trim
23. expand
24. notice
25. connect
26. intertwine
27. invite
28. revitalize
29. transform
30. struggle
31. adapt

What happens when we sit with a word? When we unpack it? When we investigate every single letter? When we consider what’s behind the definition? That’s what these words are for. They are intended to create space for contemplation, they are an ask for you to invest time in the creative process in all of its forms.

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

As always, these monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon.

Written by Anna Brones

March 1, 2022 at 20:24

2022 Words for Creating and Being: February

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New month, new prompts. 

This is the second month of 2022 Words for Creating and Being (here are the ones from January). As opposed to last year when I made more specific prompts, a single word offers a little more room for interpretation. They can be for drawing, for writing, or simply for contemplating.

Let the word sit with you for the day. Say it out loud, feel it on your tongue, hold it in your head. Then see where it leads you. 

1. here
2. ground
3. answer
4. become
5. return
6. infinite
7. cloud
8. peel
9. uncover
10. approach 
11. ramble
12. grip
13. deviate
14. kind
15. rise
16. resolve
17. tend
18. glide
19. remove
20. stretch
21. abundance
22. align
23. begin
24. build
25. dedicate
26. shadow
27. complete
28. radiate

What happens when we sit with a word? When we unpack it? When we investigate every single letter? When we consider what’s behind the definition? That’s what these words are for. They are intended to create space for contemplation, they are an ask for you to invest time in the creative process in all of its forms.

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

As always, these monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon.

Written by Anna Brones

February 1, 2022 at 06:25

Coffee Outside, on a Walk

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a yearlong, monthly collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. This is the final installment. We hope that you will continue to partake in coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

As we inch into the new year, this marks our 12th installment of Coffee Adventures Outside. A full year of prompts and encouragement to use our coffee habits as an excuse to get outside. It is perhaps fitting that we conclude this year of microadventures with one of the things that we love the most: a simple walk.

Coffee has a long history as a companion on long walks or journeys. Wilfred Thesiger, perhaps the last of the old-guard of English explorers, crossed the Empty Quarter desert in Arabia with meagre, ascetic supplies but plenty of coffee. At dawn, after prayers, they would bake bread for breakfast and then drink coffee, “which was black, bitter and very strong. The coffee-drinking was a formal business, not to be hurried.”

Whether you are interested in crossing a desert, or strolling somewhere a little less ambitious, we agree with old Wilfred that a cup of coffee improves the experience of going for a walk.

One of the reasons we love to walk is that it helps us to think. Such a notion dates at least as far back as to Augustine of Hippo who declared, 1600 years ago, “Solvitur ambulando: it is solved by walking.” Combine a walk, then, with the brain-fizzing boost of a black brew and you may feel ready to put the world to rights again.

Walking into the woods (or wherever you choose to find your nature), is a stimulating experience. The gentle rhythm of our footsteps encourages our brains to meander, as does the smorgasbord of new sights and sounds at every turn. A cup of coffee on a walk is a gentle, continuous stimulation. It is, we feel, a very different experience to the pleasures of running or zooming along at speed on a bicycle. There is time today for our thoughts to roll around and grow. Whilst your walk may get the blood flowing and raise your heartbeat a little, it is still a meditative, reflective experience. 

As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.” Nature allows us to think, walking allows us to experience the world around us at a different pace than our usual one. 

The poet Walt Whitman asked, “But are not exercise and the open air in reach of us all?” No, not everyone, unfortunately. Those of us who are free and able to exercise in nature would do well to remember and appreciate our good fortune. But the point made by Whitman was that it does not take much or cost much to savour some time in fresh air. It applies to the idea of the ‘Nature Pyramid,’ and the recommended doses of nature at different time scales. We need nature in big chunks and smaller ones, and the pyramid urges us to pay attention to the different quantities of nature we include in our lives on an hourly, weekly, monthly and yearly scale. 

Every walk is different, of course. You may set out with an objective in mind, a goal to march towards. You could choose to follow your nose and see where you end up or toss a coin at every junction. If your walk is a circular route then everything you see will be different, all of the time. How does that change the creative thoughts you have along the way compared to an out-and-back walk where you see familiar things but from a different perspective and with different eyes? Or try sipping your coffee on a well-worn trail and compare how that makes you feel to walking a route you have never done before. 

Our days are so often driven by efficiency and busyness and a pressure to get things done. Walking with a cup of coffee (or taking a thermos and stopping for a break) is a gentle but important push back at that cultural expectation: you are deliberately choosing to do something slow and ‘unproductive’. Immersing yourself fully and completely in a single activity for a chunk of time is a rare experience these days, but it is a vital one for anyone interested in tapping into their creative side. It is surprising, too, how productive such dawdling often proves to be. 

So today we urge you to go on a walk with no goal or schedule—pass the time simply by putting one foot in front of the other. Take your thermos with you, and stroll for the sake of strolling. Find a spot to sit and pour a cup. Take note of where you are. Here your body and mind can wander. 

We have entered a new year. There are hopes and dreams ahead, but there is also the present moment of today. Let your coffee remind you to exist here for a while.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside. Various prints, cards, and even a calendar featuring the artwork from Coffee Adventures Outside can be found here.

Written by Anna Brones

January 7, 2022 at 09:14

2022 Words for Creating and Being: January

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New year, new prompts!

Last year I put together monthly lists of creativity prompts. They were mostly intended as drawing prompts but they worked as writing prompts too.

I wanted to continue this year but felt that drawing prompts could often be a little prescriptive. Creative plays a role in my daily life, but I am personally not someone who does well with strict daily routines. I wanted some kind of prompt that felt a little more open to interpretation.

Enter the 2022 Words for Creating and Being.

Creativity isn’t passive—creativity requires action. Most of all, creativity requires curiosity and contemplation.

Modern society doesn’t always provide a lot of space for that, and if we are seeking to be more creative this is an excellent place to start. To kick off the year, I read Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness and this stood out:

“It’s easy to feel as if we’re standing two inches away from a huge canvas that’s noisy and crowded and changing with every microsecond. It’s only by stepping farther back and standing still that we begin to see what that canvas (which is our life) really means, and to take in the larger picture.”

So these monthly lists of words will be a space for doing that. Use them as a springboard for writing, for drawing, or just for thinking. Take the word to paper with a pencil. Take the word with you on a walk and ponder. Share the word and see what conversation it sparks. These words are intended to create space for contemplation, they are an ask for you to invest time in the creative process in all of its forms.

I didn’t launch this list on January 1st. There’s so much pressure on the first day of the year to start something new. I think we need a pause before we begin, a little extra breathing room. So that’s what … is for.

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1. …

2. presence

3. exist

4. quiet

5. solitude

6. exchange

7. rejuvenate

8. dull

9. absorb

10. wind

11. howl

12. extend

13. breathe

14. befriend

15. capture

16. collaborate

17. dark

18. cultivate

19. hope

20. plan

21. consider

22. reflection

23. unearth

24. deepen

25. marinate

26. beam

27. ignite

28. expression

29. renew

30. arrive

31. create

We spend our lives surrounded (and sometimes inundated) by words. We read books, we have conversations, we write emails, we scan headlines. But how often do we really spend time contemplating them? Time holding a word, turning it on its head, considering it means and what we want it to mean? 

I can’t wait to see what spending stillness with some words will lead to. 

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

As always, these monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon.

Written by Anna Brones

January 2, 2022 at 11:59

How to Make a Zine

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Zines are part of a long history of self-publishing, a way for people to get their thoughts, ideas, and manifestos out into the world. Essentially since the invention of the printing press, people have been finding ways to publish things that are outside of the mainstream. There are even zine libraries.

You might perhaps remember the feminist punk zine riot grrrl from the 1990s. Or maybe you’re a fan of the zines that indie publisher Microcosm Publishing is behind. Or maybe you’ve seen a stack of zines at your local coffee shop or bookstore.

Maybe you have never heard of zines at all, but are itching to tell a story or get a thought out into the world.

Then making a zine is for you.

The simplest way to make a zine is with a single piece of paper.

To help out with this project, I reached out to visual artist, journalist, and author Sarah Mirk. She spent the last year making a zine every single day! She was kind enough to share her top five tips for zine-making below, and she also has this easy-to-print free PDF that shows you how to make one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

March 23, 2020 at 09:05

Lessons from Making 100 Papercut Portraits of 100 Women

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Two years ago I set out to make 100 papercut portraits of inspiring women, calling it Women’s Wisdom Project.

100 is a lot. But it’s also very little. 
Making 100 portraits is a large endeavor. There’s a lot of work that went into creating this series.

But the number 100 is minuscule compared to how many inspiring, insightful women have come before us, are around us today, and who will lead us tomorrow. What do we lose when we disregard their stories? When we don’t give them a platform?

To me, these have become essential questions as I have worked on this series. Our stories carry power, so do our questions.

Life is made up of complexity and nuance
History, stories, and wisdom are complex and nuanced, in stark contrast to the simplicity of my medium’s black and white nature. We do not live in this simplified duality. Our lives are messy, gritty, chaotic.

Each of these papercuts has involved quotes, and I have also constantly been reminded of what we lose when we only focus on tiny snippets of what someone once said. After all, quotes are simplified, clean versions of otherwise complex stories. Not to mention how many quotes are misattributed, or entirely fabricated.

It is important to do our homework. To not take everything at face value. Certainly, there is power in a condensed statement of wisdom. But there is always so much more behind.

I hope this work sparks a conversation, that it is a springboard for learning more, not just about women in history, but about the stories of women around us.

You need a support team
We often view art as the work of an individual. We have a cultural vision of the lone, struggling, tortured artist, one who uses their medium to work through their pain and emotions. But art doesn’t only come out of pain, and it’s certainly not created in a vacuum.

Creativity can require solitude, but it also needs collaboration, and it certainly needs support, some emotional scaffolding if you will. If you are going to embark on a creative journey, you need people to love and support you, to cheer you on when you can’t cheer on yourself.

We move forward together.

We have so much to learn and so much share
The word “wisdom” can feel loaded. Something that’s unattainable, something that requires a lifetime to achieve. And yet as I have asked women where they have gotten memorable pieces of wisdom, it is often from the people closest to them. A parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher.

It is perhaps natural that we look to changemakers and leaders for guidance. After all, these are the people who have a fantastic and beautiful ability to distill the human experience into bits of understanding, be it through words, through pictures, through film, through speeches. But most often, the answers that we seek are nearby. They are held by people close to us. Available just by asking.

If so much wisdom is carried in those around us, imagine how much lies with ourselves? How much do we have to offer?

Life is a series of asking questions
There is so much that we don’t know, and so much that we’ll never know. Every time I have sat down to research another woman to profile for this project, it has led me to many other stories, many other threads. It is physically impossible for me to pursue all of them, just as it is physically impossible for us to have a grasp of everything around us.

We can’t read every book, we can’t watch every film, we can’t keep up on every current event, we can’t have a deep understanding of every moment in history. But what we can do is to constantly ask questions.

We can sustain the curiosity to continually drive us to ask questions. This is what creates progress. It’s what keeps us alive.

The Anonymous and the Untitled have power
I debated a lot over the 100th piece in the series. Who would it be? What wisdom did I want to showcase?

Several years ago, my mother and I were at an art museum, and I started paying attention to the number of “anonymous” labels. In an exhibit devoted to folk art, there were several quilts, some of them attributed to the artist, but many of them by “anonymous”—the stories of their creators (most likely women) lost to history. The same was true in a gallery with pieces of Native American art. Stunning pieces of art and craftsmanship, simply with “anonymous” on the label below.

#100 in Women’s Wisdom Project is therefore devoted to exactly that: the unheard, the unseen, the unrepresented, and the stories, wisdom, and power that they have carried, do carry, and will carry. Let us all have the wisdom to pay attention and listen.

The Women’s Wisdom Project is up at Vashon Center for the Arts March 6-29. 2020.

A version of this post appeared in my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel

Written by Anna Brones

March 6, 2020 at 10:28

Tove Jansson

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“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.”

Tove Jansson (1914-2001)

Beloved Tove Jansson. A woman who wore flower crowns and plunged into the sea. A creative woman who gave us the gift of stories through the world of Moomin. A woman of wisdom and insight.

Jansson was born into a creative family, her mother an illustrator (she designed Finnish postage stamps for over three decades) and her father a sculptor. She learned to draw almost before she could walk, and later she would attend art school in both Stockholm and Paris. Her world was one built of curiosity, and navigating her way through it by way of expression–she wrote, she drew, she painted, she thought. As was noted in The New Yorker, “home was continuous with studio, at night filled with music and the couple’s creative friends. While freedom exists in principle, when you grow up in such a setting, and one of your family pets is a monkey named Poppolino, chances are you will become an artist yourself. In an emergency, mother asked if daughter could fill in on an illustration job, and daughter obliged.”

Winters were spent in the art studio and summers on an island. If you have read any of Jansson’s work, you know the power an island holds—they were woven into her work and personal life. As is noted on the website devoted to her work, islands were “hives of adventure and the setting for rebirth and change – places where you can build your own world.” Symbols of freedom, she and her partner (and fellow artist) Tuulikki Pietilä found their own: Klovharu in the Finnish archipelago, where the two women built a small house where they enjoyed over 30 summer seasons together.

Sometimes deliberate people look for their island and conquer it, and sometimes the dream of the island can be a passive symbol for what is one step beyond reach. The island—at last, privacy, remoteness, intimacy, a rounded whole without bridges or fences. 

Sheltered and isolated by the water that is at the same time an open possibility.

A possibility one never considers.

From Jansson’s essay “The Island

Capturing the Nordic landscape and spirit, at the heart of Jansson’s work, there is a world of tension and contrasts, whether it’s contentment versus restlessness, safety versus security, the fear yet exhilaration of the unknown versus the comfort yet mundanity of home. As Tuula Karjalainen wrote in Tove Jansson: Work and Love, excerpted in The Independent:

The inhabitants of Moominvalley often stray from their valley and are subject to storms and disasters on the raging sea. Tove loved the sea in its various manifestations. She described it in her life, in her painting, in the Moomin books and also in her other writing. The Moomins live in these two contrasting worlds: on the one hand, a luxuriant, marine landscape, with brooks, flowers, houses with tiled stoves; and on the other, the unpredictable sea with its barren islands, archipelagos, caves, mussels, sea creatures and boats. In the tension between these worlds, the Moomin family settles down.

That made Jansson’s work layered, which appealed to both children and adults. Karjalainen continues, “even in these early works, it is plain that Tove’s narrative operates on several levels. It is a quality that lies at the basis of all the Moomin books and makes them quite unique in children’s literature. It was also the case that some bewildered publishers were unable to conceive of books that might be suitable for both children and adults.”

Of course, Moomin wasn’t Jansson’s only world. She created an impressive body of artwork, and penned stories specifically for adults, like The Summer Book and Traveling Light. 

In researching Jansson, I came across some old film interviews with her. In one (fyi it’s in Swedish, if you decide to try to watch), she spoke of the impetus for The Summer Book, a book that I read at the beginning of every summer. She describes hitting a creative wall, that she couldn’t work or write, and she went to her mother. Her mother challenged her to write about a very old person and a very young person.

The idea reignited a desire to sit down and write.

This entire project of documenting women has been about wisdom. The wisdom we seek, the wisdom we carry, the wisdom to challenge, the wisdom to ask. In this interview, I found it so touching that the idea for one of Jansson’s most seminal books, the one that feels like her truest story, was one that was sparked by the wisdom of an important woman so close to her.

There is so much to give, so much to find, so much to enjoy, so much to seek. There is wisdom in tension, in layers, in curiosity, in the novel and in the mundane. For that, I find Jansson’s words so powerful.

Stay curious.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

February 12, 2020 at 11:54

Pura Belpré

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“Don’t forget the magnificent sweep of the imagination and dreams of youth…”

– Pura Belpré (1899 – 1992)

 

Pura Belpré was the first Latina librarian in the New York Public Library system, devoting her life to the writing, telling and translation of stories, sharing her culture and Puerto Rican folklore, and becoming an advocate for bilingual children.

Born in Puerto Rico, Belpré came to New York in 1920, and while she never intended to stay, just a year later she started working at a branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem. On the shelves, she found fairytales and stories from around the world, but didn’t find her own culture represented. So she took it upon herself to share it. She would travel across the city performing puppet shows for children in English and Spanish, bringing stories to life, and reminding her audiences that they had a place. As the New York Public Library noted, Belpré “served as a kind of library ambassador to New York’s newcomers, making sure that Spanish-speakers knew the library was meant for them, as well. ”

While at the time New York’s Puerto Rican population was growing, when Belpré first became a librarian, she couldn’t find any books for children written in Spanish. She penned her own, Perez Y Martina, a Puerto Rican folktale passed on to her by her grandmother, and it became the first Spanish book for children in mainstream U.S. publishing. Today, there’s even a book award named after her.

Stories hold power, as does language, which is why Belpré’s work is so essential. She opened up a bilingual world for Spanish-speaking children, not only ensuring that they had access to books and stories in their own language, but that they learned about their culture and gave them a sense of belonging. She once wrote, “I wished to plant my story seeds across the land.”

Lisa Sánchez González, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut, wrote a comprehensive study of Belpré’s work, The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré, the Legendary Storyteller, Children’s Author and NY Public Librarian, and was kind enough to share a copy with me so that I could learn more about Belpré’s story, and her importance as a cultural figure.

Sánchez González summarizes why Belpré’s work was so essential:

“…as a nation colonized for over half a millennium, we might well argue that our only sovereign territory is our cultural production, and this may be why our music, our poetry, our film, our plastic arts, and our orature are so richly textured and perpetually reworked. Generation after generation, we Boricuas work out the complications of our own cultural identity in our own uniquely inclusive and exclusive ways. Those performances, like our existence, also covertly and quite carefully confuse, straddle, and trespass generic and essentialist boundaries at will, by whatever means necessary,” writes Sánchez González. “Our clandestine presence—the deliberate occupation of sovereign and creatively politicized spaces otherwise denied to us—is the way we make sense of ourselves, for ourselves, often secretly, beyond the eyes of outsiders who have the power to disturb our aesthetic process by projecting the colonists’ fears and neuroses onto us.”

The quote I used for Belpré’s portrait is part of a longer one that I find so beautiful, and speaks to the importance of writing for children.

“Don’t forget the magnificent sweep of the imagination and dreams of youth; when a boy comes only to a man’s shoulders, his dreams are tall,” wrote Belpré. “Through all the hardships and heartbreaks, these dreams often become realities.”

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

February 7, 2020 at 10:28

Florence Williams

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“Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course,

to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. “

– Florence Williams

Last summer during a 3-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve, I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative by Florence Williams. I had seen the book mentioned in a few places, and when I spotted it at the local bookstore near Bloedel, I knew that it was the perfect text to have with me during a residency that was intended for slowing down and bringing more awareness to my natural surroundings. There are books that we read that change how we think about things, and there are books that we read that encourage us to continue down a path of questioning that we are already on. The Nature Fix was a little of both, and it felt like it came into my hands at the right place and time.

Why do we need nature? That’s a question that underlies much of Williams’ book. Of course intuitively, we make know that we need nature—after all, we are born from the natural world—but in our modern society where technology and advancement rule, it’s easy to forget just how much we need the natural world. And not just on a once-in-awhile basis.

What stuck with me after reading The Nature Fix was how important any dose of nature was. A multi-day detox where we are entirely disconnected and immersed in the natural world is wonderful, but if we dodge all other opportunities for smaller doses of the outdoors, from a short walk or even peering out the window at a tree and letting our minds wander, we miss out on an array of benefits. As the subtitle for the book would lead us to believe, time in and with nature is essential to our emotional and physical wellbeing. In other words, as Williams says, “being in nature actually makes us more human.” Having come to understand that through many years of researching and writing, I think that Williams offers so much wisdom that we all can benefit from.

As I worked on this papercut (which I had to cut two times in order to get right) I thought a lot about the sentiment that Williams shared and that I chose to use in her portrait. “Stay the course,” is probably advice that we all could take. I know that 55/100 profiles into this long project, I needed to hear it myself. And perhaps it’s wisdom that the natural world would share with us as well; we need only look to the trees and the oceans to be reminded that nature is cyclical, that everything is in a constant flow, always shifting and evolving, but moving forward nonetheless. No matter what happens, the sun manages to rise and set every day. If nature stays the course, so can we.

I hope that after reading this profile, you take even the smallest moment to enjoy some time outside.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course, to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. Wisdom is what you know at 50 that you wish you knew at 25. Wisdom is about knowing who you are, and who you are in relation to other people. I tend to think that wisdom is largely self-wisdom, but I also believe that sometimes wisdom can be shared.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My beautiful sister-in-law Lisa Jones, a gifted writer and teacher. She just kept telling me I was okay, and I eventually, I started to believe her.

Before you wrote The Nature Fix, what was your relationship with nature? Were you conscious about how it made you feel physically and mentally? How did (or didn’t) writing the book change that?

I’ve always had a strong connection to nature, and I’ve long known that it sustained me emotionally and creatively. Writing the book taught me to have a more generous view of nature, to accept, for example, the little patches of city nature could also be powerful and affecting, that I didn’t have to be in a dramatic mountainscape or desertscape to have a meaningful experience. It taught me some shortcuts to being more mindful in nature, to cue myself to look and listen and smell.

Something that was very apparent to me while reading the book was how essential it is to create a balanced relationship with nature. How do you create that balance in your everyday life?

I try really hard to have a daily dose of nature, whether it’s morning and evening walks with my dog or sometimes just sitting outside for a few moments where I can hear some birds and catch some sunlight. I make it more of a priority now, and I pay better attention to how I feel in different  environments. If it’s windy, I might seek a more sheltered walk. If it’s winter, I’ll think more about going midday when I can get more natural sunlight. If I’m in need of an emotional re-set, I’ll take out the earbuds and spend more time looking at my neighborhood river. There are a bunch of little hacks like that to optimize the benefits. Also, I know i love snow, so if any falls, I try that much harder to catch it.

Part of the subtitle of The Nature Fix is how nature makes us more creative. Why do you think creativity is important in our society?

I think we live in an age where attention is a scarce resource. It’s the ultimate luxury good. When we are scattered and distracted, our thoughts suffer, meaning suffers, our human connections suffer. Creativity demands this interesting combination of deep focus and open focus, neither of which can happen when we’re multi-surfing. Being outside serves a bunch of functions. It helps us be mindful, it helps our sensory brains come online, and it gives our thinking brains a little bit of a breather. It facilitates open focus, mind-wandering and free play.

As a writer, what stories are you drawn to telling and why?

I’m drawn to telling stories that bring to light the hidden or neglected connections between humans and our environment, whether they be harmful connections like the effects of pollutants on our cells (as in my first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History) or beneficial, like why we are drawn to the colors green and blue.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Have more confidence in your ability to withstand hardship; believe that your needs matter. Relax and play a little more.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.